I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life staring into a pit of red Virginia clay.
I was living in an apartment in Lynchburg and I was having dinner at a friend’s house. He was a local contractor and was heading up the construction of a large building in the area.
After dinner he was still talking about the huge project he was responsible for and was showing me prints and artist renditions of what the finished building would look like upon completion. It was obvious that he was so proud of the project and even though they were only three weeks into the project he asked me if I would take a ride with him to see the construction site.
Of course I said yes and soon we were on our way to see the progress of the project.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I could tell something was wrong. There was nothing to see. No frame, no walls. No bricks, or shops. Nothing at all.
What had they been doing for three weeks?
“Unimpressed?” he asked. (I must not have been hiding my feelings very well.)
“Looks good to me…What did you expect to see?”
“I don’t know…At least some framing. It seems like a long time to not have anything done.”
He looked back at me over his shoulder and smiled, but kept walking.
I was about to learn something that had led him for years.
I knelt beside him and looked into the hole. It must have been at least fifteen feet deep. And as I looked closer, I began to see it was part of an elaborate series of trenches forming a perimeter around where the building would soon sit.
He took a few minutes to explain how it all worked together and why this hole was different from the next. He told me they’d fill them with concrete and metal stakes that would secure the building in place.
When he was finished, he looked me in the eyes and said,
“You always have to build down before you can build up. You’ve gotta dig deep if you want to build high. Your most important work is the work you do before anyone notices or cares…It’s what makes everything else stand in the end.”
“I hear you, but isn’t this a bit overboard? Seems like you could have done less and be halfway done by now.”
“Maybe…but someday a storm’s going to come. They always do. And you gotta decide up front how big a storm are you going to be ready for. The time to prepare is way before it shows up.”
Even in that moment, I realized he wasn’t just talking about the building. He was talking about what we build with our lives. He was talking about how God can use us in this life to further His Kingdom.
I may not have fully understood at the time, but the years since have certainly made his point clearer.
The bigger your dream, the more you want to be used of God, the deeper you have to dig to make it happen. And it doesn’t matter how impressive things might seem above the surface. If the foundation isn’t solid, your beautiful building, or career, or life will end up crooked, sinking and failing in time.
It’s all about the foundation. It’s about what’s underneath it all. It’s about how you’ll hold up in the storm.
The same is to said of your walk with the Lord. Do you want to be used of God? Do you want to make a difference in this life? Your walk must be formed with a firm foundation and the most important work is the work on your foundation you do before anyone notices or cares. Your foundation must be built on Jesus Christ. It is only that which has a strong and firm foundation on Him that lasts.
If I am completely honest, this is a very difficult lesson in life for me to write about. I am aware of the cracks in my foundation. I am acutely aware of the failure in my life that can be traced back to the foundational weakness I had in my Christian walk all those years ago.
I have spent the last fifteen years of my life repairing those cracks in my foundation. There’s still so much work for me in the coming years. Even after all this time, God still shows me where He wants me to repair the foundation in my life.
Because a storm is coming. They always do, you know. And the ground beneath you must be able to support the weight of the hope inside you. Your life must be firmly set upon the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ.
But understand this… The bigger your calling, the deeper you’ll have to dig – the longer you’ll spend in quiet preparation before anyone seems to notice or care about what you’re building.
Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
I Timothy 6:19
If your foundation is sure, pay no attention to what things look like today. Keep going – keep building. Brick by brick. Stone by stone. And in time, you’ll find that what you once thought was impossible is now reality…it will stand against the storms of life.
And someday… you will be just what God intended you to be.